When I was at school we were taught that you counted up to nine hundred and ninety nine, and then if you wanted to add another digit you switched to thousands. I agreed it was a pretty logical system and ran with it, so have always wondered why Atari never got onboard… and Commodore too to a lesser extent.
Why was their game console the Atari twenty six hundred and not the two thousand six hundred? Why were their follow up models the fifty two hundred and seventy eight hundred rather than the five thousand two hundred and seven thousand eight hundred, and how far would they have stretched this odd convention if they’d remained in the hardware business?
We know why the seemingly arbitrary number was chosen; because 2600Hz was the frequency of the tone you could use to ‘phreak’ old phone systems into providing you with free long distance calls (as it happens also the frequency emitted by the complementary whistle that came with ‘Cap’n Crunch’ breakfast cereal in the ’60s), though that doesn’t explain the silly tautology.
These numbers bear no relation to their CPU clock speeds, yet for the sake of argument, let’s suppose they do. What would we call the Atari Jaguar if we adopted the same naming convention and extrapolated upwards?
The Atari 2600’s CPU runs at 1.19 MHz. Dividing 2600 by 1.19 gives us a baseline of 2184.873949579831 something-or-others per MHz.
16 years later Atari releases the Jaguar console. It uses various different CPUs, yet taking the Motorola 68000 as its main coordinator, if you will, running at 13.295 MHz:-
2184.873949579831 x 13.295 = 29047.89915966386 making its super-catchy model number the Atari two hundred and ninety hundred and forty seven point eight nine nine one five nine six six three eight six, or for brevity’s sake rounded to the Atari two hundred and ninety hundred.
Maybe it’s one of those quirky cultural divide things. Maybe I need more sleep.